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Caring for the places we love

Wilderness Scotland Sustainability

Glen Affric

Our Vision

Operating Policies | How we support Nature Conservation in Scotland | Tourism and Climate Change

In choosing Wilderness Scotland you can be sure that you are travelling with a company that takes its commitment to sustainable tourism seriously. We have been dedicated to operating in as sustainable a way as possible since the very beginning of our company and provide financial support to a wide range of nature conservation projects in the Highlands of Scotland.

We continually search for new ways in which we can improve our performance, strengthening our connection to the environments, communities and economies in which we operate. For us this connection and responsibility has always been a constant and will continue to be at the very core of our business growth and decision making.

This commitment has been recognised in many awards over the years including the Best Green Tour Operator in the World Travel Awards and a Highly Commended placing in the World Responsible Tourism Awards (for details on further awards, please click here) Since 2006 we have held a Gold Award from the Green Tourism Business Scheme – recognised as the world’s most credible Sustainable Tourism Programme.

Our vision for the 21st Century is one in which tourism can play a major role in helping people to enjoy, experience and connect with the amazing natural environments in which we live. It is our hope that this connection will inspire all of us to greatly value the natural world and to embrace a more sustainable way of living.

Operating Policies

The Environment

Inner Hebrides and Skye

Puffin on Staffa.

Through the provision of engaging experiences from wilderness to wildlife, we are firmly of the view that positive tourism experiences have the capacity to foster a strong connection with the natural world and promote more sustainable living in these challenging times we currently face.

We never forget that first and foremost our adventures are about great holiday experiences so, don’t worry, we won’t be holding evening lectures and workshops on embedded carbon and alternative energy! However, you can expect our experienced and knowledgeable guides to develop your understanding of the amazing environment in which we live.

Our business activities and trip operations are purposefully designed to minimise environmental impact and operate on a low carbon basis. For example, all of our group holidays start at mainline train stations and we keep the use of motorised vehicles to a minimum. We are all about experiencing the wilderness using human power, be that on foot or by bike, kayak, canoe and sailing boat.

Local Communities and Economies

Sustainability

Clients meeting a local Harris tweed producer in the Outer Hebrides

A Wilderness Scotland experience is defined not only by its environmental qualities, as integral to the experience is an involvement and interaction with local communities.

We consistently receive feedback from clients that the encounters and relationships with the local population are one of the most enjoyable and memorable elements of a trip to the Highlands and Islands. We strongly support this view and recognise the wonderful contribution and added value that communities, culture and customs make to the tourism experience.

We are absolutely committed to engaging local businesses throughout our entire operation and ensuring that the economic benefits are distributed in this equitable way. As well as providing a great service to our clients, by working with local partners it also means that our groups always receive a warm welcome from the locals wherever we go.

In the Office
As part of our business wide commitment, we’re working hard to do all the good stuff that any responsible company should do. This approach is based upon the familiar mantra of reduction, re-use and recycle. The good people at the Green Tourism Business Scheme have helped us along the way setting the standards which form part of our Gold Award accreditation. You can read more about the scheme and what it involves here http://www.green-tourism.com/business/

How we support Nature Conservation in Scotland

Our Conservation Contribution Scheme
Wilderness Scotland is committed to supporting grass-roots conservation efforts across the country. Our Conservation Contribution Scheme provides financial support to one of Scotland’s leading conservation organisations, The John Muir Trust.

Our Conservation Contribution Scheme is straightforward and works in the following way:

A small voluntary payment of £5 per person is added to each of our holidays at the time of booking.

The total of all voluntary payments received each year is shared between the John Muir Trust and Trees for Life to support their invaluable conservation work and campaigning.

In addition to the Conservation Contribution Scheme donations, we also support both of these charities through financial donation and 10 staff days volunteering each year.

Sustainability

Wilderness staff working with the John Muir Trust removing old fencing in Assynt.

The John Muir Trust  owns and manages many of Scotland’s most iconic wild landscapes including Ben Nevis, Sandwood Bay and much of the Cuillin mountains on Skye. The Trust campaigns nationally and internationally for the preservation of wild places and coordinates the John Muir Award, an inspiring youth environmental education programme, which has helped 60,000 young people discover and explore wilderness areas.

Trees for Life is dedicated to preserving and restoring the Caledonian Forest, the beautiful ancient woodland which once covered much of Scotland. This vital work is supported by hundreds of volunteers who, since 1989, have planted over 1,000,000 trees in the wild glens of the Highlands. Trees for Life have recently purchased the 10,000 acre Dundreggan Estate between Glen Affric and Glen Moriston and plan to reforest this wonderful region with a wide variety of native woodland species.

In 2010 we created a Wilderness Grove at Dundreggan Estate in the West Highlands, which is managed by Trees for Life. To date, there are over 200 trees in the grove and you can help by planting a tree too – click on this link to see our grove and find out how to plant a tree (just £5 per tree!), which helps restore your own little piece of the Caledonian Forest.

We have provided extensive financial support over the years and continue to provide operational support services to the Wilderness Foundation UK. The Wilderness Foundation campaign to raise awareness of the importance of wilderness and offer an inspiring range of wilderness experiences for young people and peace and reconciliation groups in some of the earth’s most precious wilderness regions. Central to the work of the Wilderness Foundation is the belief that only by experiencing wild places at first hand, will individuals truly understand and appreciate the continued value of wild places in our modern society. This is a philosophy we share at Wilderness Scotland.

Tourism and Climate Change

In recent times, much has been written about the contribution of air travel to carbon dioxide emissions and the corresponding effects on climate change. This (like virtually all tourism businesses) presents a dilemma for us and we have thought long and hard about what our policy on this issue should be.

Some commentators have suggested that what is required is for all of us to simply give up air travel. In our view, this approach is neither valid nor realistic. It ignores the critically important point that tourism is the world’s single biggest industry and putting an end to all international trade would have disastrous economic and social impacts. It would also have major environmental impacts as ecosystems and habitats, previously protected through tourism activity, would be destroyed for resource gain.

While this may not seem so relevant to the UK, the lifeblood of the Highlands and Islands is tourism (13% of the economy) and its sustainable future depends upon economic success in this sector.

We believe that there is a “middle way”, whereby we can all take significant steps to deliver meaningful action on climate change. In accordance with the advice of The Carbon Trust, our climate change strategy is based upon the following business actions:

  • To encourage clients to access the start/end point of our trips by public transport (the meeting point for all of our group holidays is at train stations – for full details on how to get to Scotland by train, please see the Travel to Scotland section.)
  • To deliver a low-carbon holiday experience, relating to the activity, transportation, accommodation and other services used.
  • To elsewhere reduce our energy consumption and consequent carbon emissions throughout our business, wherever possible.
  • To work with all of our suppliers to reduce carbon emissions and to develop new low-carbon products, wherever possible.
  • To focus our trips on those parts of Scotland where tourism will deliver positive socio-economic and environmental benefits.
  • To financially offset all unavoidable carbon emissions which are generated by the company.
  • To make our clients aware of these issues and to encourage them to offset their own carbon emissions arising from air travel (see below).

Our hope is that if many businesses, irrespective of the type of industry, choose to adopt the same approach, we can make a significant step towards tackling climate change in a realistic way.

Have a browse of our Wilderness TV section to be reminded why we need to protect Scotland’s beautiful wild places.

Wilderness TV